Unveiling the mystery of a Wigan World War One soldier

David Long
David Long

A local historian has revealed more of the life of a Wigan World War One soldier whose descendants are being sought by a train operator.

Northern recently launched a search for the relatives of J Baldwin, a Royal Engineer from the borough, whose name appeared on a long-lost memorial which is being installed at a train maintenance depot.

Now Rev David Long, from Standish, is offering more insight into the life of the man, saying his final resting place is in a war grave in Pemberton.

He now lies alongside his brother-in-law Thomas Yates in the churchyard at St John the Divine on Church Street.

Sadly, Rev Long has not managed to trace any living relatives of Mr Baldwin, saying the trail went cold when he attempted to uncover more about the family.

He said: “I’ve not found anybody associated with him. His widow re-married and one of his daughters married but I’ve not found anything else.

“The most interesting thing about him is the double grave. There are some awful things that happened where people were buried and nobody knew where the graves were or had bothered to mark them so eventually they just put up stones which said; ‘the remains of 10 soldiers are near here’ or something like that.

“At first I thought that was one of these cases but then I found out the two were actually related through research.

“I’m not exactly sure how they died but Baldwin died in May 1918 and Yates in 1921.

“Yates was in the regiment that went to Gallipoli so he could have been seriously wounded and then died a few years later, but that’s just me putting two and two together and making a nice story.”

The grave was installed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the stone features the badges of both their army units.

The memorial reveals Baldwin was 33 when he died and served as a driver in the Royal Engineers.

Yates lost his life aged 28 and was a private with the Manchester Regiment.

Northern unveiled the war memorial bearing J Baldwin’s name at the Newton Heath maintenance depot in June, more than 60 years after it was moved.

The train operator had been hoping to invite descendants of those on the plaque to the ceremony.

However, anyone related to J Baldwin can still get in touch with the train operator by emailing press.office@northernrailway.co.uk or calling 0800 200 6060.